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Your Yard can 'BEE the Change': Make a Plan for 2020

Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) and thyme flowers (Thymus vulgaris) in a bee lawn.
Photo: Mary Meyer, UMN Extension
Want to be more pollinator-friendly and turn your yard into a bee lawn? The time for Minnesotans to apply for a state grant is just about here!

In May of 2019, Minnesota Governor Tim Waltz signed legislation that set aside $900,000 in financial assistance to individual home owners who are willing to install pollinator-friendly native plantings.

The program helps cover up to 75% of the cost of each conversion project, and up to 90% in areas with a “high potential” to support rusty patched bees, according to the Star Tribune.

Your Yard Can BEE the Change is the slogan for the new Lawns to Legumes initiative from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

December 2019 will be the first round of applications for restoring pollinator habitat on residential property for spring and summer 2020 installations.

[Sign up for updates about this new homeowner program.]

How the program works

Minnesota has been divided into priority areas with most of the Twin Cities metro area as priority one, where there is the most need for pollinator habitat.

A recent Lawns to Legumes webinar explained the program and current resources, including four types of plantings to consider adding to your residential property:

  • pocket plantings
  • pollinator tree and shrub areas
  • pollinator lawns 
  • And pollinator meadows.  

Resources for bee lawn planting

The  Lawns to Legumes website has many resources including a Planting for Pollinators guide.

The guide's cover page features (photo right) the typical pollinator foraging ranges for various pollinators:

  • bi-colored sweat bee: 65-215 feet
  • small mining bee: 65-245 feet
  • Eastern tailed blue butterfly:750-1500 feet
  • Rusty patched bumble bee: 900-1800 feet
  • Monarch butterfly: 11-150 miles. 

If you are thinking about installing a Bee Lawn, the U of M Bee Lab has new info as well, including a Flowering Bee Lawns Toolkit.
Hannah Ramer, a U of M graduate student working with Dr. Kristin Nelson found an “overwhelming degree of support for flowering lawns” among public park survey participants suggesting “flowering lawns can provide multiple benefits, including enhancing aesthetic appeal, increasing perceived biodiversity, and maintaining recreational use.”

Read the article:
"Exploring Park Visitor Perceptions of 'Flowering Bee Lawns' in Neighborhood Parks in Minneapolis, MN, US.
Skipper butterflies on white clover in a bee lawn
at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.
Photo: Mary Meyer, UMN Extension

Want to see a 'Bee Lawn' in person?

Bee Lawn demonstration sites were established at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in 2015 and are located just before the Hedge Collection on Three-Mile Drive.

These sites showed white clover as the dominant flower in the first two years, but by year three, the creeping thyme had increased and self-heal had persisted.

Winter is a good time to think about your landscape and which areas you could convert to pollinator habitat. Review the resources above and make a plan for your yard for 2020.

Author: Mary H. Meyer, Extension Horticulturist and Professor

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